Barry had initially insisted that he wanted to appoint both his brother Martin and Dessie Rogers as part of his backroom management staff; however, both men had previously clashed with long-serving Meath chairman Fintan Ginnity, and had both been hit with hefty suspensions.
After only three months in the job as successor to the legendary Sean Boylan, who had been in charge for 23 years, Barry was engaged in a standoff with county officials over the appointments of his brother and Rogers, and it appeared that he would be sacked.
However, peace broke out following last Monday’s meeting with Barry given the go-ahead to continue, albeit with several strict conditions. At the behest of the county board, he agreed that neither Martin Barry nor Rogers would be part of his backroom, and that he would have to show “respect” to officers and never to criticize the board in public.
Barry accepted that he had apologized to Ginnity for taking his quarrel with the board to the media, but he denied that his position had been weakened by the set of rules imposed on him.
Ginnity also acknowledged that mistakes had been made surrounding the appointment because it had been the first time as officers that they had to deal with a new senior manager following Boylan’s long tenure.
CROKES PIP SARSFELDS
Dublin champions Kilmacud Crokes duly added the Leinster club football title to their year’s roll of honor with a narrow 0-10 to 0-9 victory over Sarsfields of Kildare in last Sunday’s final at Navan.
Five points clear at the break, Crokes only managed to score twice during the second half with the first of those scores coming in the 27th minute, however, they managed to display impressive survival instincts in the face of a strong Sarsfields’ fightback.
If the freezing conditions militated against stylish play, it was still a compelling contest. Crokes soon found that their much-heralded attacking duo of Ray Cosgrove and Mark Vaughan weren’t going to cause havoc, so they relied instead on a battling rearguard action.
Despite suffering from flu, Jonny Magee was an immense presence in the middle of the pitch for the winners where he received sterling support from his brother Darren. On most of the occasions that Sarsfields worked their way through the Magee blockade they were then faced by an unyielding full-back in Colm Flanagan.
After squandering far too many chances in the first half, Sarsfields introduced Padraig Brennan — only recently returned from peacekeeping duties with the Irish army in Liberia — and at last their attack began to make an impression.
Brennan kicked three scores as he quickly changed the balance of the game, before Alan Smyth added another to reduced Crokes’ lead to the bare minimum. “I didn’t think we’d lose, but at that stage I thought a draw was possible and Sarsfields will probably feel they deserved a replay,” explained winning manager Nicky McGrath.
Pat Burke responded for Crokes, and then Liam McBarron got what essentially the insurance score as Jonny Magee held Sarsfields at bay in a tense finale. “Jonny didn’t feel 100 per cent going out,” said McGrath. “But as soon as you get him out on the field and put a jersey on his back, that’s the real man out there. He’s a fantastic example for everyone in this club, he’s so vital to the cause. Huge man.”
With a strong bloodline in the team — Ciaran Kelleher is the son of former Dublin great Robbie while goalkeeper Dan Nelligan is a son of Kerry’s Charlie Nelligan — Crokes can now look forward to the All Ireland semifinals in early spring with genuine confidence.
CONNACHT CHAMPS WIN
Meanwhile, in the All Ireland quarter-final, Connacht champions Salthill/Knocknacarra had to battle to see off the challenge of Tir Chonaill Gaels by 0-9 to 0-5 at Ruislip near London.
Despite the quality of Michael Donnellan and Alan Kerins, Salthill struggled to break down a resilient Gaels’ defense during the first half, and they were only ahead by 0-4 to 0-3 at the changeover.
Even though Gaels drew level on three occasions, they missed several scoring opportunities and eventually the winners pulled clear with three unanswered points from Kerins, Seamie Crowe and John Boylan.
The hurling year is Cork’s as the county champions Newtownshandrum landed the provincial title following a cracking 0-16 to 1-12 win over Ballygunner of Waterford at Semple Stadium.
Despite the time of year, the game was played at a pace reminiscent of summer and if Ballgunner gave it their best shot, they will no doubt be aggrieved by the decision of referee Ambrose Heagney not to award them a free in the dying seconds.
With Newtownshandrum ahead by a point deep into injury time, Paul Flynn felt he was fouled as he tried to work a scoring position from 30 yards out, however, Heagney waved his protestations away, and at the final whistle a visibly irate Flynn confronted the referee.
It was a pity that Ballygunner felt they had been robbed because they had contributed to a riveting contest. The Cork side were in front by four points early in the second half, but Gearoid O’Connor struck for a goal and as Ballygunner piled on the pressure, they soon overturned the deficit to lead by three.
Earlier the O’Connor twins, Ben and Jerry, had been crucial to Newtownshandrum’s fortunes, but now it was the turn of a third brother John who came off the bench to hit three precious points. As Ballygunner faltered – they were outscored by 0-5 to 0-1 in the final 11 minutes — Ben O’Connor pointed a sideline ball for what proved to be the winning score.
“We’re up against physically stronger teams which creates a problem,” said Newtown manager Bernie O’Connor, whose sons scored a total of 10 points between them. “But you have to remain true to what you believe in. I like the running, passing game and you don’t hit a ball 60 yards if a 30-yard pass is better. I can’t understand the ball being hit 60 yards over a good player’s head.”